In late-2020, the VA went live with a new online portal for Veterans to submit claims for travel reimbursement. The Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS; one could probably pronounce it as “Bitsssssss…”) was reportedly implemented to simplify the claim submission process for Veterans, caregivers, and beneficiaries. As with any new federal process, BTSSS both improves and complicates. In hopes of providing some clarity, see below for more information and steps to get set up in BTSSS. But, first, some benefits basics.
The VA’s Beneficiary Travel Program
The VA offers two types of travel pay reimbursement and each type his its own set of criteria; they are General Health Care Travel and Special Mode Transportation. General health care travel covers regular transportation like a car, plane, train, bus, taxi, or light rail while special mode transportation includes ambulances, ambulettes, or wheelchair vans. Both types require you to be traveling for care at a VA health facility or for VA-approved care at a facility in your community. Below is a table of requirements for each type that includes requirements for non-Veterans like caregivers, etc.
|General Health Care Travel|
(One of these must be true)
|Special Mode Transportation|
(ALL of these must be true)
(One of these must be true)
|Have a VA disability rating of 30% or higher|
Are travelling for treatment of a service-connected condition, even if your VA disability rating is less than 30%
Receiving a VA pension
Have an income below the maximum annual VA pension rate
Are traveling for a scheduled VA claim exam (aka C&P exam)
Are traveling to get a service dog
Can’t afford to pay for your travel
|Eligible for general health care travel reimbursement|
A VA provider determines your medical condition requires an ambulance or a specially-equipped van for travel
The VA has approved your travel in advance, unless the travel is for an emergency situation where a delay would threaten your life or health.
|The person is your:|
Family caregiver under the National Caregiver Program traveling to receive caregiver training or to support your care.
Medically required attendant traveling with you to support your care.
Transplant care door or support person.
|If you’re traveling to get treatment at special disability rehab centers like spinal cord injuries, vision loss/blindness, or prosthetics rehab, you may be eligible if one of the following is true:|
Need in-patient care
Are getting temporary lodging approved by the VA
|VA may also pay for care for an allied beneficiary when the appropriate foreign government agency has authorized their care, or for the beneficiary of another federal agency when that agency has approved their care.|
If you’ve reviewed the chart above and it looks like you may be eligible for submitting claims for travel, the next section will provide guidance on what you need before you file and how to get through the system.
As always, check out the VA’s Travel Pay Reimbursement page for the most updated information.
What You Need
- A Smartphone or Computer with internet access.
- DS Logon: You’ll need to have a Level 2 (Premium) DS Logon which is an account requiring verification. This is needed to be able to access BTSSS and should be the first thing to do before you begin your claim. It’s essentially another process in the process of prepping to use BTSSS. If you already have Premium account, you can start gathering documents for your claim. Guidance for those who need a Premium account follows:
- Go to eBenefits (https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/), select “Log In”, and select “Need An Account?” to initiate a request for a Basic account.
- To obtain a Premium account, you’ll need to verify your identity using of the following methods:
- ID.me: A trusted partner that provides the strongest identify verification system available to prevent fraud and identity theft. You’ll need a smartphone or computer with an internet connections, your Social Security number, and proof of identify like a driver’s license/passport or be able to answer questions based on private and public data. More information here.
- In-Person: You can verify your identity at the nearest VA regional office or health care facility. If using the regional office, you’ll need two forms of ID and make sure the office has your current address on file. If you use a health care facility, you’ll need to bring a completed VA Form 10-5345a-MHV and a government-issued photo ID like your Veteran Health ID Card (VHIC) or driver’s license. The regional office option can take up 7 to 12 business days whereas the health care facility takes less time. More information here.
- By Phone: You can only use this method if you’ve received direct deposit payments like C&P payments. Call 1-800-827-1000 and say, “eBenefits.” You’ll need your full name, Social Security number, checking or savings account number, and the dollar amount of your most recent direct deposit payment. More information here.
- Receipts: Before you begin, gather all receipts and information you’ve tracked for your travel claim. You’ll need to have them available for upload into your claim, this may mean scanning them in or taking a clear photo of each receipt supporting your claim. Receipts include the following –
- Mileage to and from your appointment at a VA health care facility or a non-VA health care facility. Note that for non-VA facilities, travel reimbursement must be approved in advance except for certain emergency situations.
- Tolls for bridges, roads, and tunnels: You may need to ask the toll worker for a receipt or, if you have an online toll payer like FastTrak, log into your account and download a receipt.
- Parking: Always request a receipt at the kiosk or the toll-taker’s booth on the way out.
- Taxi and plane fares: Request receipts or download them
- Ticket costs for public transportation including train, subway, bus, ferry, or light rail
- Transportation by a specially-equipped vehicle like an ambulance, wheelchair van, when needed and approved
- Meals and lodging in some cases
How to Submit a Travel Claim in BTSSS for Veterans
Before submitting a claim, make sure you are within 30 days of your appointment. If you become eligible for travel reimbursement after your appointment, submit your claim within 30 days of when you become eligible.
- Go to AccessVA and select “I Am A Veteran.”
- Select “Veteran Travel Claim Entry” and you’ll have two options: DS Logon or VA PIV Card. Select DS Logon.
- Log in using your DS Logon information and select “Login.”
- Select the Security Image you chose during account setup and select, “Continue.” A screen titled, “Welcome to BTSSS!” will appear. Read the Terms and Conditions, select the checkbox and click, “Proceed to Profile Review.”
- Review your BT profile and ensure all the information is complete and correct. If changes are needed, input them and select “Request Profile Updates.” You’ll need to standby until you get notification that the changes have been made. They won’t take effect immediately as a Travel Clerk will need to make the changes. If all the information is correct, select “Proceed to My Dashboard.”
- From the Dashboard, you can create a claim using two methods: “My Appointments” or “My Claims.” Both methods will open the “Initiate a Claim” form.
- Using “My Appointments”: Click “Create Claim” in the “Associated Appointments” column.
- Using “My Claims”: Click “Create” in the upper right, then click “Create a Claim” for the appointment.
- Confirm or update the address on the page, then click, “Create Claim and Add Expenses.”
- On the “Claim Expenses” page, check the applicable boxes on the expense types. From here, you’ll have five slots to upload copies of receipts supporting the claim. Make sure the file (PDF/photo) shows the receipt clearly. Click on the “Add Attachments” buttons and add copies of your receipts.
- Print the claim by clicking “Print Claim” on the bottom of the “Claim Detail” page.
- Submit or Save the claim after you’ve added all supporting receipts and have verified the information is correct. Saving the claim for future submission will put the claim on hold if you need to gather receipts for attachment. A claim is not submitted until you actually certify it is complete, agree to the terms, and select the “Submit Claim” button. You will be taken back to “My Dashboard” where you can review the submitted claim’s status in “My Claims.”